The Social Construction of Congenital Deafblindness in relation to Education: Analysis of focus groups in East and Central Africa




social construction, congenital deafblindness, special needs education, culture and religion, community


This study investigated the importance of social construction of congenital deafblindness (CDB) when planning special needs education services. The study was conducted in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The research was based on a literature review and a focus group study. In the focus groups a dialogical perspective was used for acquiring knowledge through communicative interactions. The focus was on two main topics: social construction of Congenital Deafblindness (CDB) and knowledge about education services for people with CDB. Fourteen participants were selected, with seven from each country. Participants were familiar with deafblind persons and/or with communities where they lived.  The grounded theory approach and thematic analysis method were used to determine the correct coding and themes and identify patterns of meaning of different opinions. The results of the data analyses showed that participants attributed the causes of CDB in Uganda and the DRC to cultural and religious beliefs.  The medical stance on CDB was less understood. In addition, culture and religion were identified as dominant factors in the social construction of the position of people with CDB in the community, leading to misunderstanding and inappropriate services for them. This community misunderstanding indicates that people at the local level are likely to stick to traditional and religious practices. Therefore, changing attitudes and educational opportunities for people with CDB requires more understanding of third-party voices and the underlying barriers in these communities.